The power of FIFA over national governments: a new actor in world politics?

2014-09-18T11:15:39Z (GMT) by Borja Garcia-Garcia Henk-Erik Meier
The role of economic actors and transnational corporations in transforming the world’s political and economic order has received increased attention. However, it is still controversial to what extent private governance regimes operate in an effective ‘shadow of hierarchy’. In other words, it is debated the extent to which governments and international organizations are able to regulate and exert their powers over transnational social and economic actors. This paper uses the case of world football’s governing body, FIFA, to investigate the extent to which sport international actors may condition the decisions of democratically elected national governments. The paper provides comparative case study evidence that FIFA as football’s global regulator has been able to force national governments to abandon legislation and interference in football’s matters even in case of blatant failures of football’s governance. Research supports the claim that private regimes providing unique governance contributions represent an institutional equilibrium able to resist challenges. FIFA’s ‘victories’ over national governments demonstrate the political leverage of football and its governing body, but they are highly problematic since they discourage national governments to fight misconduct in sport, while it can be doubted that sport organizations alone can deal with the regulatory problems at stake.